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jueves, 26 de abril de 2018

Profile: Biokemik (Biosyncaucho) – Greenventing chemistry



Type of post: COMPANY PROFILE.

During the official presentation of the Handbook on Biorefineries in Spain that was held in September last year, I had the opportunity to meet Jesús Torrecilla, Head of technology assets of Energy and Environment in TecnaliaVentures. Tecnalia Research & Innovation is the largest private research and technology entity in Spain and one of the largest in Europe and TecnaliaVentures, as ventures builders, is the responsible of generating impact, transforming its technology assets into sustainable and profitable business. At one point of the conversation, a project with potential to bolster the green chemicals market in Spain came up. That was the seed of this company profile that I prepared with the kind cooperation of Jesús.

Background

Biokemik (Biosyncaucho S.L.) was established in May 2015 to scale-up processes developed in the laboratory and to market high value chemicals from renewable feedstocks. It is a technology-based company supported by the strategic vision and the commitment of Tecnalia. In fact, this research and technology entity transferred the intangible assets and a cash contribution to create Biokemik (Biosyncaucho S.L.).

The project was endorsed by Omega, proofs of concept capital fund, managed by Tecnalia Ventures and supported by Kereon Partners (private equity fund that joined the undertaking). Although the trading is still called Biosyncaucho S.L., the brand name is Biokemik since the end of 2017. The company consists of an experienced team that has successfully developed and launched several spin-offs and a group of researchers with expertise in chemical technologies.

The name of Biosyncaucho comes of the origin of the initiative, focused on the generation of 1,3-butadiene, monomer of the rubber (“caucho” in Spanish) synthesis, but the production of this polymer has never fallen within its scope. Additionally, there are other two relevant factors for the name change: the international vocation of the Society and the fact that Biosyncaucho is a chemical platform with four chemical products targeted towards different markets (some of them are not directly related to the rubber market). The new brand name, Biokemik, is aligned with the current business oriented to renewable molecules and the corporate claim “Greenventing Chemistry” evinces that all of the process involved in the technology are groundbreaking and proprietary.

Team

Jesús Torrecilla (Chairman of the Board of Directors) is a chemist with 30 years of professional career in the sector. He possess a long term expertise in the development and leadership of R&D projects on processes and chemical technologies, as well as in the R&D management through his participation or leadership of scientific excellence networks, technological platforms and as head of the department of sustainable chemistry. Also, he has wide experience in the market transfer of new technology both creating new technology-based companies and licensing technology.

José Tesán is the Secretary of the Board of Directors in behalf of Kereon Partners. He is civil engineer and investment officer. He has vast experience in the creation and management of new business.

José Ramón Ochoa (Lead Researcher in Biokemik and Tecnalia) is PhD in Chemistry with MBA. Author of books, patents and numerous scientific publications in the field of the chemical technology.

Tomás Roncal (Senior Researcher) is PhD in Chemistry and specialist in fermentation processes. Author of several patents and scientific publications.

Francisca Rio (Senior Researcher) is PhD in Chemistry and author of several patents and scientific publications.

Walter Ramírez (Business Development Director) PhD in Science. He has participated in the establishment of companies and technological centres. He is author of patents and publications.

Process technology and products

Biokemik’s technology enables to generate several chemical products of commercial interest from non-food biomass (also some industrial cheap byproducts are suitable) via mixed fermentative and chemical processes. CECT (Spanish Type Culture Collection) proprietary microorganisms (Biological Risk 1) are used in the fermentative processes. The competitive advantages of the Biokemik’s technology are: high selectivity, high yield, high efficiency and low manufacturing costs.

The processes and the uses of each product are summarized in the table below:
Product
Process
Uses
Bio-1,3-butadiene
Catalytic dehydrogenation of 2,3-butanediol.
– Thermo-plastic elastomers: styrene block copolymers (SBS, SEBS), SBR latex.
– Nylon.
– Fine Chemicals: sulfolane, laurolactame, THF.
– Synthetic rubber: styrene-butadiene rubber, nitrile rubber, liquid rubbers.
– Styrenic plastics: ABS, HIPS, MBS.
– Epoxy resins.
Bio-2,3-butanediol
Biomass fermentation.
Pesticides, chemical products, pharmaceutical products and plastics like TPUs.
Bio- methyl-ethyl-ketone
Chemical process or electro-reduction from acetoin or 2,3-butanediol.
It is a solvent used for multiple industrial applications due to its low viscosity, high evaporation rate and hydrocarbons miscibility.
Bio-acetoin
Biomass fermentation.
It is a fine chemical used as specialty additive.



Figure 1. Diagram of the propietary technology of Biokemik (courtesy of Biokemik)


The IP of the technology is well-protected by the following patents:
ES 2352633 B8
Mutant strain of Lactococcuslactislactis and method for the industrial production of acetoin.
Priority date: 04/08/2009.
Publication date: 20/02/2012.
WO 2016012634 A1
Method for manufacturing 2,3-butanediol by acetoin hydrogenation.
Priority date: 23/07/2014.
Publication date: 28/01/2016.
WO 2016097122 A1
Method for manufacturing 2,3-butanediol by acetoin electro-reduction.
Priority date: 18/12/2014.
Publication date: 23/06/2016.
WO2016142419 (A1)
Metabolite production by lactic acid bacterium.
Priority date: 03/09/2015.
PCT/EP/2017/068117
Strain to produce 2,3-butanediol and other metabolites.
Priority date: 10/07/2016.
PCT/EP2017/073021
Electrochemical method for manufacturing methyl-ethyl-ketone.
Priority date: 14/09/2016.

The three microorganisms involved in the processes are patented and CECT registered. Additionaly, as part of the IP strategy, four processes have been deposited before a notary, registered as industrial know-how.

Pilot plat and demo plant

Biosyncaucho operates since late 2015 a pilot plant with a production capacity of 300 kg/y. This facility has allow to validate the technology in the first stage of the scale-up and produce small quantities to carry out early market tests with the different biomolecules.

The pilot plant has all the process required to the generation of the whole portfolio of products with commercial specifications, from the reaction and the fermentation to the downstream phase.

The conceptual, basic and detail engineering for the construction of a semi-industrial flexible and safety plant at demonstration scale is already available. The biorefinery will have a capacity of 100 ton/year of acetoin, equivalent to 85 ton/year of 2,3-BDO. It will be a singular facility that will enable the performance of scale-up test and the validation of another type of biomolecules.



Figure 2. Model of the new plant (courtesy of Biokemik)

Future perspectives

At the present moment, Biokemik is in a period of capital increases and searching for smart partners, preferably from the industrial sector, that create process synergies and provide a market channel to strength its growth. So far, the technical and business roadmap defined in the establishment of the society is being executed without deviations.

The plant will be built by the end of 2019 and, after a testing phase, will allow to industrialise the technology from the year 2020. In fact, if the negotiations underway with several “driver” companies of the involved fields, are successfully completed the semi-industrial plant could be increase its capacity to 200 ton/year, becoming in a profitable industrial unit. Subsequently, the business will be extended through new plants or under the model of partial licenses (by products and geographical areas).

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